1. In your opinion, what were the main factors that led to the discovery and killing of Osama Bin Laden? In other words, who deserves credit for this remarkable accomplishment?
FMFP: Clearly there were several factors that lead to the capture and death of OBL. It appears undeniable, however, that the enhanced interrogation techniques used by the CIA – and criticized so vociferously by President Obama, AG Holder and virtually the entire liberal establishment – played a key role in getting the ball rolling. Some former Clinton staffers and others on the Left have come out and acknowledged this to their credit. We can only hope that the President decides to do the same, if not in words then through his actions by eliminating all talk of trying CIA interrogators who have proven so valuable in this War on Terror. As to credit, well many people deserve it, one of which is of course President Obama. He made the decision that we elected him to make and many Americans would have been disappointed if he did not make. Previous President Bush also deserves credit for putting into place policies that facilitated this event. Above all, though, the politicians should be much lower on the list of credit due than the military and intelligence officers who have actually prosecuted this war.
Pat: I have already stated that President Obama, former President Bush, Special Forces, CIA, and all the intelligence and military apparatuses that worked day in day out since 9/11 deserve our thanks for this accomplishment. I would also like to second, FMFP’s assertion that the much maligned CIA interrogators, who still this day are under investigation for wrong doing (a second investigation as they were already exonerated by one), need to be thanked for their service and sacrifices during one of the most stressful and tumultuous periods in our country’s history. They deserve our thanks, not our vindictiveness. It is likely true that without their efforts, Osama Bin Laden would still today be planning terrorist attacks on our homeland.
2. What does the killing of Osama Bin Laden mean for US national security? US foreign policy in Afghanistan and the Middle East?
Pat: Big question. The killing of Osama definitely hurts Al Qaeda’s short and long term capabilities, but by how much is uncertain. We will likely learn more in the next few weeks from the data uncovered during the attack, just how central Osama still was to their daily operations. Losing their most famous and unquestioned leader has to hurt the overall Islamist terrorist global movement, but I have no doubts that it is still alive and ticking throughout the globe. We can only hope that it’s ability to plan and implement a massive attack, such as 9/11, has been forever nullified. What his death means for the future of US policy in Afghanistan and the Middle East as a whole is much harder to answer. I have already heard numerous folks on the Right talk about declaring victory and getting out of Afghanistan and the Left has voiced this opinion for a couple years now. I can imagine there are a great many regular Americans out there who would feel much more comfortable getting our troops out of Central Asia now than they were a couple weeks ago. The President has so far not made any mention so far regarding changes to our Afghan policy, but the country will demand to hear rather soon if we are keeping our current strategy or making a change. President Obama has kept Afghanistan in the rearviewmirror publicly, almost never talking about it, but that will have to change real soon. Are we bring troops home since we killed the head of Al Qaeda? Or are we staying to fight the Taliban and the Al Qaeda elements inside of Afghanistan and Pakistan? The President needs to clarify his position, whether it has changed or not, very soon.
FMFP: Killing Osama probably doesn’t shift much in terms of our broader national security or the goals of our armed forces. It appears that he had a minimal role in the operation of al Qaeda so the various cells will certainly still continue planning and preparing attacks. This isn’t to minimize the impact of the death – it’s a huge deal and is a moral blow to terrorist networks around the world. Unfortunately, I do think this will open the door for Obama to pull out of Afghanistan and declare the mission over. This might have the effect of ceding Afghanistan back to the Taliban and a more general hands-off approach to the Middle East.
3. What does this successful mission mean for the Obama presidency?
FMFP: One smart political commentator that I have spoken to thinks it will be a permanent 3 point bump when all is said and done. This seems logical and likely. In a sense, Obama moved back to par when it comes to national security. He clearly still has Libya and the Middle East uprisings that he has so completely mismanaged but people are going to be happy to place these on the same level as the OBL killing when assessing his foreign policy acumen. In the end, though, this will not be a decider of elections one way or the other.
Pat: I think this is huge for President Obama. Obama’s commander and chief stature just exploded with this event and he is taking advantage of it. He unequivocally claimed responsibility for the successful attack during his speech, using ‘I’ many times, and released those great photos of him and his team watching. His team will wisely stretch this out for weeks.Obama can now also start to get out of Afghanistan without facing any significant claims of withdrawing in shame or not having resolve. This may turn out to be one of the more underestimated bonuses for the Obama team. All of a sudden, their position of wanting to get out of there is likely to be in line with a majority of the voters. This will of course also help please Obama’s base. How the President leads from here on out will determine how much of a lift this event has given his presidency. Just a week ago, his presidency seemed to be unraveling. Voter confidence was low in him, the economy, and America’s future. Even though Obama asked S&P to wait to hear his budget speech before their market judgment on American fiscal health, they still downgraded the US to ‘negative’. The slaying of Osama Bin Laden has given the President another chance to lead this country in the way he was elected to do so in the first place; in a bi-partisan, pragmatic, efficient manner. Unfortunately, for the country and Obama’s reelection hopes, he has so far done the exact opposite. It will be provocative to see if this changes his presidency in a truly meaningful way.
4. What do you think of the outward signs of happiness shown by the large crowds in New York, DC, around the country when the news was announced? Do you think this was appropriate?
Pat: While I wish we could all cheer over a signing ceremony of Al Qaeda’s formal surrender, I am fine with Americans celebrating Osama Bin Laden’s demise. This war will likely never have it’s V-Day like World War II and in a period where the enemy is so blurred and asymmetrical, this one case where we have clarity. Osama Bin Laden was a mass murder of Americans and hundreds of others. He dedicated his life (including what would have been his future) to the misery and death of the US and his personal destruction hurts his cause dearly. I have heard many from both sides of the aisle criticize the youthfulness of the revelers outside the White House, in New York City, etc. I disagree. Surely some of them are just using this as an excuse to ‘party’, but I’m sure most are celebrating the end of sad, scary era. An era were they never knew America before it became ‘Fortress America’ and they had to leave their shampoo at home when they flew or lose a relative or friend in one of the wars in Iraq or Afghanistan. I grew up in the booming 90′s and I remember thinking a year or so after 9/11, ‘dang, those were good times’. Those college kids didn’t get to enjoy those more peaceful, prosperous, less hyper political times. Osama Bin Laden changed their childhood for the worse and he has finally met his appropriate end. And for me personally, good riddance to human garbage and three cheers to all those that helped bring Osama to justice.
FMFP: I am generally fine with their sentiment. As Pat explained, this was a joyous day for America and Americans and these crowds embodied that feeling. My initial reaction was to look at the crowd and think it oddly similar in makeup to those same crowds that marched in the streets and chanted ridiculous slogans like, “Bush Lied, People Died” or “America Deserved It” Perhaps this is an irrational thought to have at a time like this but I just couldn’t help thinking feeling slightly skeptical of the sincerity of the crowd, specifically the young college students that dominated the scene (with pot smoke and drinking very visible). Anyway, I think the folks in NYC particularly were well within their right to celebrate this cathartic occasion.